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Economic Development, Novelty Consumption, and Body Weight: Evidence from the East German Transition to Capitalism

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  • D. Dragone
  • N. R. Ziebarth

Abstract

This paper develops a conceptual framework that can explain why economic development goes along with increases in body weight and obesity rates. We first introduce the concept of novelty consumption, which refers to an increase in food availability due to trade or innovation. Then we study how novel food products alter the optimal consumption bundle and welfare, and possibly lead to changes in body weight. We test our model employing the German reunification as a fast motion natural experiment of economic development. Our data elicit detailed information on East Germans’ food consumption, body mass, and diet-related health. After the fall of the Wall, East Germans permanently changed their diet by consuming novel western food products. A significant population share permanently gained weight. This is consistent with our theoretical framework where past affects current consumption, and where novel goods determine consumption changes over time with ambiguous effects on dietrelated health.

Suggested Citation

  • D. Dragone & N. R. Ziebarth, 2015. "Economic Development, Novelty Consumption, and Body Weight: Evidence from the East German Transition to Capitalism," Working Papers wp1002, Dipartimento Scienze Economiche, Universita' di Bologna.
  • Handle: RePEc:bol:bodewp:wp1002
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    JEL classification:

    • D11 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Theory
    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • I15 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health and Economic Development
    • L66 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Manufacturing - - - Food; Beverages; Cosmetics; Tobacco
    • O10 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - General
    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes
    • Q18 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Agricultural Policy; Food Policy
    • R22 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Household Analysis - - - Other Demand

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